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USDA Approves GE Apple that Won’t Brown

(Beyond Pesticides, February 19, 2015) Last week, regulators at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a genetically engineered (GE) apple that does not brown after slicing or bruising. The “Arctic” apple, produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, is engineered using a novel technique called RNA interference (RNAi). In the case of this GE apple, RNAi technology has been used to silence the genes that produce polyphenol oxidase (PPO), the enzymes responsible for the browning that results after an apple has been bruised. Government approval of this method of genetic engineering is raises serious concerns because of considerable uncertainty regarding the unintended effects of this technology. These concerns are compounded by the agrochemical industry’s future interests in using RNAi technology to control crop pests.

appleSo far, USDA has approved commercial use of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious “Arctic” apples, and the company plans to produce Gala and Fuji cultivars in the future. Beyond the questionable utility of an apple that does not brown, are the health and economic risks associated with the apple’s commercial production and use. Some opposing the GE apple have dubbed it the “botox apple” as it can give apples the appearance of being fresh long after it is sliced when it is not; raising concerns about the development and spread of bacteria. There is also uncertainty whether turning off these genes may impact other genes or the rest of the apple tree, as compounds that produce PPO are present throughout the tree, not just in the fruit.

There is also the constant threat that GE crops pose to organic farmers. Organic and non-GE apple farmers that produce their crops near where the Arctic apple is being grown put their crops at risk of cross-contamination from pollen (likely through bee pollination). A 2014 study released by Food and Water Watch and the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship and Marketing (OFARM) found that one third of organic farmers have experienced GE contamination on their farm due to the nearby use of GE crops. The survey was conducted in response to USDA 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) report on “coexistence” between GE and non-GE farmers. The AC21 report was strongly criticized by the National Organic Coalition (NOC), of which Beyond Pesticides is a member, for recommending that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay for crop insurance or self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination. Beyond Pesticides maintains that in approving this and other new GE crops, USDA should stipulate that organic and non-GE farmers are entitled to assurances against trespass from genetic drift and compensation from the polluters for any losses in the value of their crop.

As many consumers are now aware, GE foods are not required to be labeled in the U.S. Without this statement, Arctic apples have the potential to make their way into you or your child’s lunch without any indication. A number of states, including Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado, have come close to requiring labels for GE products at the state level through razor-thin public ballots, but to date only Vermont has mandated these simple statements informing consumers. At the federal level, efforts to codify voluntary GE labels through the appropriately coined DARK Act have not moved forward. However, last week the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act was reintroduced in the House and Senate, with major support from over 700 American chefs, including Top Chef star Tom Colicchio, and33rd National Pesticide Forum speaker Hari Pulapaka, PhD (register now!).

By silencing the genes within an apple, RNAi technology presents risks that have not been fully evaluated by regulators. Without addressing these issues, agrochemical companies have begun development of RNAi GE crops that, rather than target a gene within the plant, produces RNA that acts as a pesticide able to silence the gene in a target pest, such as the western corn rootworm, which is rapidly developing resistance to current GE techniques that incorporate bacillus thuringiensis toxins. A 2013 study from USDA researchers identified risks to RNAi insecticides that include potential for off-target gene silencing, silencing of the target gene in unintended organisms, and immune stimulation.

It is critical that concerned citizens contact their state and federal elected representatives and urge them to support efforts to label genetically engineered crops. In the absence of mandatory labeling, residents can purchase certified organic foods, which prohibit the use of any GE ingredients. For more information on the hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage.

Continue the conversation on GE labeling by attending the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, taking place this year in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th, 2015.Chef Hari Pulapaka, PhD, signatory to the 700 chefs’ letter in support of GE labeling will present his take on the issue. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Center for Food Safety, USDA

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.




Register Today for Early Bird Rate: 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Orlando, FL

(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2015) Several new speakers, including cutting edge researchers bridging science and policy, have been added to the lineup of speakers at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, Florida April 17-18, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators. And, right now we are running an early bird discount rate of $5 off the normal price through March 15. Register today! 

The Forum, which will be held at Florida A&M University College of Law, is convened by Beyond Pesticides in collaboration with the Farmworker Association of Florida, FAMU Law School, Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, as well as local environmental and public health advocacy organizations. The Forum provides an opportunity to share the current science and policy information and discuss local, state, and national issues, and will focus on agricultural justice, particularly as it relates to farmworker protections and organic agriculture. Biodiversity, pollinator protection, and other relevant issues for central Florida, including mosquito management and genetic engineering will also be covered.

Early Bird Registration Details: 
We have a special early bird registration rate, which is $5 off the normal price until March 15. After that date, general admission will be $45, and $25 for students with current ID. We also have an upgraded rate of $75, which includes a 1-year membership to Beyond Pesticides and a free 100% organic tote bag, and an industry rate of $175. Register today! Registration includes organic food and drink!! All entry levels include access to all sessions, workshops, plus Friday afternoon Lake Apopka toxic tour (RSVP required), and printed materials. Additionally, we will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner on Saturday, along with receptions both nights with organic beer and wine. Click here to register now, or go to: http://Reg33NPF.

New Speaker Highlights:
Tyrone Hayes, PhD is a trailblazing biologist whose research finds that the herbicide atrazine feminizes male frogs, is one of the leading scientists critical of the pesticide industry and regulatory process. He is a professor of Integrated Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is one of the leading scientists critical of the pesticide industry and regulatory process. Dr. Hayes has published more than 40 papers, over 150 abstracts and has given more than 300 talks on the growth and development in amphibians. Dr. Hayes’ work has shown that current regulatory reviews allow widespread use of pesticides that cause serious adverse effects well below legal standards.  Through his research, he states, “I have come to realize that the most important environmental factors affecting amphibian development are synthetic chemicals (such as pesticides) that interact with hormones in a variety of ways to alter developmental responses.”

Geoffrey Calvert, MD is Team Leader at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Calvert is author of numerous studies and reports, including the recent CDC report, Worker Illness Related to Newly Marketed Pesticides, which evaluates a farmworker poisoning incident in Washington State and identifies deficiencies in farmworker protection from pesticides.

Philip K. Stoddard, PhD is Mayor of the City of South Miami, as well as a professor of biology at the Florida International University. He was elected Mayor in 2010, and re-elected in 2012 and 2014, and is a strong proponent of community, livable cities, quiet neighborhoods, responsive government, and environmental protection, leading efforts to protect beneficial species. As mayor, he spearheaded an initiative to address mosquito-borne diseases while limiting environmental damage from over-application of broad-spectrum insecticides, designating the city of South Miami as a wildlife sanctuary in order to prevent mosquito spray by the county.

See previously highlighted speakers here, or see the full lineup of speakers here.

The conference, including a tour in the Apopka area, runs from the afternoon of April 17 through the evening of April 18, and brings together scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment. See the tentative schedule here. 

Other Details:

For more information, go to www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



2,4-D and Atrazine Effects on Endangered Species Focus of Another Lawsuit

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2015) The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal court in California February 12 against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for failing to ensure that three widely used pesticides —atrazine, 2,4-D and alachlor— do not jeopardize the survival of two Bay Area endangered species, the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake. FWS has yet to act on a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether measures are needed to protect the delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake from exposure to these pesticides.

fishandwildlifeservice-logo“These pesticides are known to harm wildlife even in miniscule amounts, so it’s long past time that we start taking commonsense steps to protect endangered species, our water and ourselves,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “Putting off any analysis of the harms caused by pesticides for six years is simply unacceptable, and has set back the recovery of these two species substantially.”

Scientific research has shown that atrazine can harm the development of amphibians at exposures of just a few parts per billion, is toxic to fish, reptiles, mammals and birds, and may elevate risks of birth defects in people. Up to 80 million pounds of atrazine are used in the U.S. each year. An EPA risk assessment for 2,4-D concluded that the pesticide poses acute risks to freshwater fish and invertebrates and causes chronic impacts in other wildlife. Alachlor is now a restricted-use pesticide, having been classified by the EPA as a “likely” human carcinogen. Approximately four million pounds are used in the country each day. All three pesticides have been routinely found in surface and groundwater tested by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Despite pesticides saturating our lands and waters, the Fish and Wildlife Service has simply stuck its head in the sand for years and ignored the widespread harm to endangered species across the country,” said Mr. Hartl. “When a pesticide like atrazine has been shown to chemically castrate amphibians at concentrations of a few parts per billion, it’s unconscionable that the Service has simply done nothing.”

Center for Biological Diversity previously sued the EPA for failing to consult over the impacts of pesticides on endangered species in the Bay Delta. In 2006 the Center reached a settlement imposing restrictions on pesticide use until the consultation was completed. The EPA completed its portion of the settlement, requesting that FWS complete consultations. But those consultations have not been completed because the agency has not finished the process.

Numerous studies have linked pesticides with significant developmental, neurological, and reproductive damage to amphibians. Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., of the University of California Berkeley, whose research reveals that even minute doses of atrazine can induce hermaphroditism in male frogs, in effect “chemically castrating” the population, will be joining our lineup of speakers at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum. We invite you to join researchers, authors, organic business leaders, elected officials, activists, and others to discuss the latest pesticide science, policy solutions, and grassroots action. For more information, and to register, click here.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



EPA Sued for Violating Endangered Species Act with Allowance of New 2,4-D/Roundup Pesticide

(Beyond Pesticides, February 13, 2015) With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) nod to the pesticide industry on expanded uses of the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate, environmental groups are charging that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Repeating a pattern of putting the environment in harm’s way through violations of federal endangered species law, a lawsuit filed Friday documents  EPA’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the impact of the herbicide on two endangered species –the whooping crane and the Indiana bat– with the recent approval of Dow AgroSciences’ herbicide, Enlist Duo, for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops in six midwestern states.

Corn_Zea_mays_Plant_Row_2000pxEnlist Duo is an herbicide that incorporates a mix of glyphosate and a new formulation of 2,4-D, intended for use on GE Enlist Duo-tolerant corn and soybean crops. Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that are engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-tolerant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D-tolerant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

“EPA admits that its approval of a toxic pesticide cocktail including 2,4-D for widespread use may affect endangered species, including the whooping crane, one of the most endangered animals on Earth,” said Paul Achitoff, Earthjustice’s managing attorney. “We ask only that the court decide whether EPA has violated the law, as we believe it has before putting these imperiled birds at further risk.”

By EPA’s own admission, whooping cranes “will stop to eat and may consume arthropod prey” that may have been exposed to 2,4-D in fields sprayed with Enlist Duo, and that in sufficient amounts, this exposure can be toxic to the cranes. According to the motion, the “whooping crane is one of the most endangered animals on earth. It was pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just sixteen wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941. Conservation efforts over the past seventy years have led to only a limited recovery; as of 2006, there were only an estimated 338 whooping cranes in the wild.”

Similarly, EPA’s own analysis found that the Indiana bat would likely suffer from reproductive harm resulting from the consumption of 2,4-D-contaminated prey, as a direct result of EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo. In addition to habitat loss and cave disturbance, scientists have attributed pesticide contamination of the Indiana bats’ food supply as a reason for their continued decline.

EPA approved Dow’s Enlist Duo weed killer, which the Agriculture Department signed off on a month earlier, in October 2014.

The new seed and herbicide combination would harm more than just these two species. Critics maintain that Enlist Duo could result in other environmental and health problems. 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and a whole host of additional health effects.

The motion filed by the farm and environmental groups Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, National Farm Coalition, the Environmental Working Group, and others, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, builds on a previous challenge of EPA’s approval of the new herbicide.

Join us in person to help us continue the fight against the dangerous wave of GE crops and chemicals. This spring is Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Des Moines Register, Earthjustice

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.





Bill Introduced to Protect Oregonians from Forestry Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, February 12, 2015) Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) and Representative Ann Liniger (D-Lake Oswego) introduced a bill on Tuesday targeting the loosely regulated aerial pesticide spraying practices of the Oregon timber industry.

helicopter_sprayThe bill will establish residential, school, drinking water, and fish habitat buffers zones, require timely notification of spraying and controlled burns for nearby residents, increase record keeping requirements, establish protected areas where pesticide spraying is prohibited, and grant investigative and enforcement authority to the Oregon Health Authority in cases of human pesticide exposure.

Development of the bill grew out of a series of incidents across Oregon involving residential pesticide exposure and poisoning from aerial spraying of forest lands. The main incident, which spurred state-wide outrage and investigations into the pesticide regulation and enforcement practices of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), involved Curry County residents who complained of pesticide exposure after witnessing aerial spraying near their homes.

After pressure from local residents, investigative reporters, and environmental groups, ODA was ordered to publicly disclose pesticide records. It was found that the pesticides being sprayed were 2,4-D and triclopyr —information that conflicted with previous statements and reports and adding to the trend of opaque and lackluster ODA enforcement efforts. Eventually, the pilot responsible for the incident had his license suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 and the company that employed the pilot was also fined $10,000 and had all its licenses revoked for a year for providing false information to the state.

In a similar case, the community of Triangle Lake experienced pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to timberland, and atrazine and 2,4-D were subsequently found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation. The investigation resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations.

“We’ve heard widespread concern that Oregon isn’t doing enough to protect the health of rural citizens from aerial herbicide sprays,” Sen. Dembrow said in a statement. “It’s time to change these outdated policies.”

Timing is also ripe for improved environmental and wildlife protections, particularly with regard to salmon streams and drinking water. Within the Pacific Northwest, an area where the timber industry dominates, Oregon’s regulations are some of the least protective. And with recent legal victories, requiring EPA to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides, the bill would move the state coordination with EPA standards. The bill could also improve Oregon’s chances of receiving approval from EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its coastal nonpoint pollution control program.

Join Beyond Pesticides as we continue to learn about the dangers of pesticides and the actions we can take, like the Oregon bill, to establish better protections for people and the environment against pesticide use at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: Oregon Public Broadcasting; Beyond Toxics



France Elevates Effort to Reduce Pesticide Use by 50%, but Delays Deadline

(Beyond Pesticides, February 11, 2015) In 2008, France announced it would voluntarily cut pesticide use by 50 percent by 2018, and emerged as the European leader in reducing pesticide dependency. With its plan faltering, the European Union’s (EU) biggest agricultural producer and pesticide user has announced the expansion of a network of pioneer farms experimenting with alternative techniques and mandated reductions in pesticide sales as it delays its target reduction until 2025.

logofrenchcultureThe French government has pushed back to 2025 the timeline for halving pesticide use and added an intermediate target of a 25 percent fall by 2020, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said. The 2018 target was slated as voluntary, but pesticide use has actually increased, in part due to poor weather, according to French officials. As the EU’s top agricultural producer, France is trying to become less dependent on pesticides, which are known to pose various health and environmental risks.

The targets for pesticide reduction remain mostly non-binding on farmers, but Minister Le Foll said his revamped plan would encourage a change in practices by expanding their focus on alternative techniques. The minister notes that farmers need training in best practices to replace the massive use of pesticides with more targeted treatments and biological ways to control pests. In the new revamped plan, the government will also add a binding target on pesticide suppliers to reduce their volumes by 20 percent over five years, encouraging them to shift toward selling farmers services to reduce chemical use. Companies will face penalties if they fail to meet the target under a certificate scheme to be developed.

According to Minister Le Foll, 2,000 farms across France have already seen pesticide use fall 12 percent in 2013, even though a 9 percent rise in total use in France was seen that year. Pesticide usage can be cut both through technology that allows farmers to apply crop treatments more precisely, and through biological control that replaces chemicals with natural organisms. However, as expected, representatives of crop farmers argue that tightening restrictions on pesticide use have left them with few viable options for containing crop pests and diseases.

France, like the EU, has sought to become less dependent on pesticides. In 2013, the EU became the first region in the world to ban certain neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to global bee decline. France banned the use of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid on corn and sunflowers in 1999, and rejected an application for clothianidin registration in 2008. Similarly, the EU enacted a measure to set limits for chemicals, including pesticides and heavy metals, in lakes, rivers and coastal waters that may endanger the survival of ecosystems and, via the food chain, human health. According to the measure, EU member states will have until 2018 to meet these water standards. States will have to reduce pollution from “priority substances,” cease or phase out emissions, discharges and losses of “priority hazardous substances” in order to achieve good surface water chemical status and to be in compliance with the objectives set by the water quality standards. Previous steps have been taken by the EU to reduce pesticide pollution that include limitations on aerial spraying, the use of buffer zones around agricultural lands and restrictions on the use of pesticides of high concern. More recently, France has been at the forefront of efforts to restrict the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Pesticides are linked to a growing number of human health diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, various types of cancer, and learning and behavioral impairments, such as ADHD and even autism. In one 2012 study, pesticides were found to be linked to a 30 percent decline in sperm counts of French men over the last two decades. Pesticides also contaminate waterways, impact non-target and beneficial organisms, and persist in the environment for years. These chemicals have also been shown to reduce ecosystem biodiversity. A report by Pierre Mineau, PhD. finds that the major contributor to the decline in farmland and grassland birds is pesticide use. This report finds that the best predictor of bird declines is the lethal risk from insecticide use modeled from pesticide impact studies. In 2012, one study reported that widely used herbicides adversely impact non-target invertebrate organisms including endangered species

Along with human and environmental impacts, the French have other pesticide-related concerns. An examination of 300 French wines found that 90 per cent contained traces of the chemicals most commonly used to treat vines. Thirty-three chemicals found in fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides showed up in wines, and every wine showed some detectable trace of chemicals. (The study can be found here in French.) The French wine industry’s notorious use of high levels of pesticides, including fungicides, continues to put workers and the environment at risk.

For more information on the hazards of pesticides and human health, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. These hazards associated are unnecessary, and therefore unacceptable, given the viability of organic agricultural practices that are integral to a growing $35 billion market. See the organic program page. Beyond Pesticides has many resources, including the ManageSafe database to help avoid and manage unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals. These techniques include exclusion, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls.

Source: Reuters

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



Neonics Harm Bees’ Brain Cells, According to Researchers

(Beyond Pesticides, February 10, 2015) Scientists at the Universities of Dundee and St. Andrews in Scotland have found evidence confirming that the levels of neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides bees are likely to encounter in the wild impair the pollinator’s brain cells, resulting in colony declines. Bees and other wild pollinators provide services of over $125 billion globally, but are experiencing widespread and consistent losses that have the potential to increase global malnutrition and disease if not properly addressed. Although countries and regions across the globe have taken action to suspend or restrict the use of neonic pesticides in light of their threat to bees, policymakers in the U.S. continue to delay, impose inadequate changes, or even introduce new bee-toxic chemicals.

#beeprotective fieldThe recent study, Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids increases neuronal vulnerability to mitochondrial dysfunction in the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, finds a mechanistic explanation for previous findings that observed poor navigation and foraging in colonies of bumblebees exposed to neonicotinoids. To do this, researchers exposed bumblebees to doses of the neonics imidacloprid and clothanidin generally expected to be seen in the field (10 nanomoles[nM]/2.1ppb), and measured the amount that accumulated in the insect’s brain. They observed the bees accumulate between 4 and 10 nM of the chemicals within three days. Clothianidin exhibited an acute effect on the bumblebee’s brain, breaking down the mitochondria in its brain cells. Although imidacloprid did not exhibit this acute effect, after only two days of chronic exposure to an infinitesimal 1 nM amount of the chemical, the bumblebees’ brain cells became susceptible to mitochondrial damage by normal levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter.

“Our research demonstrates beyond doubt that the level of neonicotinoids generally accepted as the average level present in the wild causes brain dysfunction and colonies to perform poorly when consumed by bumblebees,” he said. “In fact, our research showed that the ability to perturb brain cells can be found at 1/5 to 1/10 of the levels that people think are present in the wild,” said Chris Connolly, Ph.D, coauthor of the study.

With this impact, although bumblebees are unlikely to die, they are likely to encounter difficulty in learning and memory. Exposed bees will have greater difficulty, for instance, in recognizing the smell of a flower, or how to find their way back to their colony.

Researchers made certain to investigate how low levels of neonicotinoids effected bumblebee colonies on the whole. When exposing the bees to 1nM of imidacloprid in sugar water, scientists found adverse effects on colony growth and the condition of the nests compared to untreated colonies. Treated colonies exhibited a 55% reduction in live bee numbers, 71% reduction in healthy brood cells, and a 57% reduction in the total bee mass of the nest.

“This is not surprising as pesticides are designed to affect brains of insects so it is doing what it is supposed to do but on a bumblebee as well as the pest species. The bumblebees don’t die due to exposure to neonicotinoids but their brains cells don’t perform well as a result and this causes adverse outcomes for individual bees and colonies,” Dr. Connoly noted.

This study is the latest in a string of research that shows significant reason for policymakers to suspend the use of these toxic chemicals to alleviate the stress on global pollinator populations. In 2014, research published by Dave Goulson, PhD, in Ecotoxicology found “near-infinitestimal” exposure to neonicotinoids reduced bumblebees pollen foraging efficiency. This study built on previous studies that showed reduced colony growth and queen production, but added another piece to the puzzle by outfitting bees with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, allowing researchers to see how bees became worse and worse at collecting pollen and nectar. Now, with this new study, researchers have shown what is actually occurring within the bee’s brains to cause them to act this way in the field.

“This is not proof that neonicotinoids are solely responsible for the decline in insect pollinators, but a clear linear relationship is now established. We can now be confident that at these levels, neonicotinoids disrupt brain function, bee learning and the ability to forage for food and so limit colony growth,” said Dr. Connoly.

Although it is known that there are a number of stressors acting on pollinators, including viruses, pathogens, other pesticides, reduced foraging, and many others, policymakers can make an enormous difference in the health of these beneficial species by suspending the use of neonic pesticides. As Beyond Pesticides continues to assert, the global decline of insect pollinators No Longer a Big Mystery.

“It may be possible to help bees if more food (bee-friendly plants) were available to bees in the countryside and in our gardens,” said Dr. Connoly. “We suggest that the neonicotinoids are no longer used on any bee-friendly garden plants, or on land that is, or will be, used by crops visited by bees or other insect pollinators.”

While President Obama and the White House Pollinator Task Force consider their recommendations to address the pollinator crisis in the United States, concerned residents must make their voice heard. Sign the petition urging the President to enact meaningful protections for bees here. Become active in your community or campus and use the BEE Protective campaign’s resources to advocate for changes at the local level; organizations both large and small have already enacted meaningful changes.

Source: The FASEB Journal, Phys.org

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



Monsanto’s Roundup Eradicates Milkweed, Major Food Source for Monarch Butterflies

(February 9, 2015, Beyond Pesticides) A report, Monarchs in Peril: Herbicide-Resistant Crops and the Decline of Monarch Butterflies in North America, released by Center for Food Safety (CFS) last week, reveals the devastating impact of Monsanto’s and the nation’s biggest selling herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate), on the survival of monarch butterflies. The herbicide is used to treat millions of acres of herbicide-tolerant genetically engineered (GE) crops, eliminating the monarchs’ sole source  of food, milkweed, and approaching a collapse of their population, which has plummeted over the past 20 years. The report cites findings that glyphosate use on Roundup Ready (glyphosate-tolerant) crops has nearly eradicated milkweed around farmland in the monarchs’ vital midwest breeding ground. At the urging of scientists and public interest groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently considering listing the monarch as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

monarch adn milkweed“This report is a wake-up call. This iconic species is on the verge of extinction because of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crop system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “To let the monarch butterfly die out in order to allow Monsanto to sell its signature herbicide for a few more years is simply shameful.”

Monarch population numbers have fallen by 90% in less than 20 years. This year’s population was the second lowest since careful surveys began two decades ago. The critical driver of monarch decline is the loss of larval host plants in their main breeding habitat, the Midwestern Corn Belt. Monarchs lay eggs exclusively on plants in the milkweed family, the only food their larvae will eat.

Monarch butterflies have long coexisted with agriculture, but the proliferation of herbicide-tolerant GE crops is threatening that balance. Monsanto’s glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready corn and soybeans have radically altered farming practices, sharply increasing the extent, frequency and intensity of glyphosate use on farm land. Glyphosate –one of the very few herbicides that kills common milkweed– was little used two decades ago, but has become by far the most heavily used herbicide in America thanks to GE Roundup Ready crops. As a result, corn and soybean fields in the Corn Belt have lost 99% of their milkweed since just 1999.

“The alarming decline of monarchs is driven in large part by the massive spraying of glyphosate herbicide on genetically engineered crops, which has virtually eliminated monarch habitat in the corn and soybean fields that dominates the Midwest landscape,” said Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety science policy analyst and co-author of the report. “Glyphosate is the monarch’s enemy number one. To save this remarkable species, we must quickly boost milkweed populations and curtail the use of herbicide-resistant crop systems.”

Milkweed does grow outside of cropland, but there is too little habitat to support a viable monarch population. First, corn and soybeans dominate the Midwest landscape, leaving little area in roadsides, pastures, and other land where milkweed grows. Second, monarchs produce almost four times more eggs per plant on milkweed within agricultural fields than on milkweed growing elsewhere.

“Milkweed growing in Midwest cropland is essential to the monarch’s continued survival. Without milkweed, we’ll have no monarchs,” said . Martha Crouch, Ph.D., biologist with Center for Food Safety and co-author of the report. “Very few of us fully understand the ecological impacts of our food system, but we need to pay attention. The decline of the monarch is a stark reminder that the way we farm matters.”

As the monarch population declines other threats have greater impacts, and the butterflies are less likely to bounce back from adversity. For example, a winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 468-500 million monarchs. A similar storm today could completely eliminate today’s much reduced monarch population.

Environmental groups, led by Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a legal petition with FWS to protect monarchs as threatened under ESA in August. In November, 40 leading scientists and over 200 environmental groups and businesses sent a letter to FWS in support of the petition. In December 2014, the Service responded to this petition request and announced that ESA listing may be warranted, an important first step towards securing stronger protections for monarch butterflies. While obtaining ESA listing is paramount, numerous interim and additional policy recommendations are listed at the end of Center for Food Safety’s report.

The decline of monarch habitats is not the only environmental effect linked to the pervasive use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides. For example, the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant “super weeds” is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use, according to a study conducted by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup formulation, is one of the most widely used conventional pesticide active ingredients in the U.S. And, similar to monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of neonicotinoids.

Critical to the survival of monarchs, other pollinators, and organisms essential to ecological balance is the large-scale adoption of organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind and Hedgerows for Biodiversity: Habitat is needed to protect pollinators, other beneficial organisms, and healthy ecosystems. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect our pollinator friends.

With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage.

Source: Center for Food Safety

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



People Who Eat Organic Have Lower Pesticide Levels in Their Bodies

(Beyond Pesticides, February 06, 2015) People who eat an organic diet have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than those who eat conventional fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides, according to a new study published yesterday. The study, “Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA),” published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looks at adult exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs). Scientists studied nearly 4,500 people from six U.S. cities and examined long-term dietary exposure to 14 OPs. This study group was restricted to those who reported rarely or never eating organic food (“conventional consumers”). Scientists looked for signs of organophosphate exposure via urinary dialkylphosphate (DAP) levels and compared these levels to those who reported organic produce consumption habits.

Fruits and vegThe scientists found that people who reported eating organic fruits and veggies at least occasionally had significantly lower DAP, or organophosphate residue, levels in their urine when compared to people who almost always ate conventionally grown produce. OPs are the most commonly used insecticides on conventional fruits and veggies, thus making OP exposure extremely prevalent. In fact, metabolites of organophosphate metabolites have been found in the urine of over 75 percent of the U.S. population.

The new “research provides another piece of evidence that consumption of organic foods may reduce pesticide exposure,” said Jonathan Chevrier, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who was not involved with the study.

The effects of pesticide exposure have been well documented, particularly for vulnerable segments of the population like children and pregnant women. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighed in on the organic food debate recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. The Academy also noted that choosing organic is based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change, a standpoint that is supported by Beyond Pesticides. AAP subsequently released a landmark policy statement, Pesticide Exposure in Children, on the effects of pesticide exposure in children. AAP’s statement notes that, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity.” The report discusses how kids are exposed to pesticides every day in air, food, dust, and soil. Children also frequently come into contact with pesticide residue on pets and after lawn, garden, or household pesticide applications. The authors explain how diet is likely a major pathway for pesticide exposure in children, citing a 2006 intervention study, which found that switching children to an all-organic diet had an immediate and substantial decrease in the concentration of pesticides in their bodies.

Evidence points to the rapid growth and popularity of organic. Organic growers in the U.S. sold more than $3.5 billion organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011. Studies also find that consumers are exposed to elevated levels of pesticides from conventionally grown food. Organic foods have been shown to reduce dietary pesticide exposure and children who eat a conventional diet of food produced with chemical-intensive practices carry residues of organophosphate pesticides that are reduced or eliminated when they switch to an organic diet. Studies have found additional health benefits to eating organic. A ten-year University of California study, which compared organic tomatoes with chemically grown produce, found that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants. A study by Newcastle University, published in the Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, found that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its program and through its Eating with a Conscience website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Join us as we continue the conversation on the benefits of organic agriculture this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Live Science

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides



Investigation Finds Industry Efforts to Quash Science and EU Ban of Endocrine Disruptors

(Beyond Pesticides, February 5, 2015) A brewing battle in the European Union (EU) over removing from the market Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC)s has heated up. An investigative report in The Guardian  reveals that a European Union (EU) scientific paper, prepared to assist in the development of new mandatory EDC risk assessment standards, was never made public. According to the report, EU Commission sources say the release of the paper was quashed as a result of chemical industry pressure and political influence.

P_endocrine-systemAt the core of the debate lies two EU regulations, one concerning biocidal products (EU 528/2012) and the second on “plant pest protectants” (EU 1107/2009). Both of these regulations required the EU Commission to produce draft measures concerning specific scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine disrupting properties by December 14, 2013. Under the regulations, chemicals within the biocidal and plant pest protectant categories that are categorized as having endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects in humans would be prohibited from use in the market place.

As noted in the purpose and subject matter of the biocidal regulations, “The purpose of [the] Regulation is to improve the functioning of the internal market through the harmonization of the rules on the making available on the market and the use of biocidal products, whilst ensuring a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment. The provisions of this Regulation are underpinned by the precautionary principle, the aim of which is to safeguard the health of humans, the health of animals and the environment. Particular attention shall be paid to the protection of vulnerable groups.”

The reasons for the EU’s affirmative action to increase scrutiny of EDCs were strong, as increasing scientific research and studies continue to demonstrate the currently unmonitored risks of EDCs in everyday and chemical products in the EU and across the world. Common household products –detergents, disinfectants, plastics, and pesticides– contain chemical ingredients that enter the body, disrupt hormones, and cause adverse developmental, disease, and reproductive problems. These problems. known as endocrine disrupting effects, occur at levels far below current risk assessment safety standards under international and U.S. regulations.

After significant delays and despite the EU regulations’ clear edict to establish new, protective risk assessment criteria that must consider the full range of EDC adverse effects, in June of 2014 the EU Commission released a Roadmap recommending mostly ineffective EDC evaluation criteria. falling far short of what critics say is required by the EU regulations.

Environmental and health advocacy groups were quick to criticize the majority of options provided in the Roadmap and Commissioners made little secret of the fact that pressure from industry and international  harmonization efforts were to blame for the delays and watered-down criteria. Yet, the extent of industry pressure was not widely reported.

“We were ready to go with the criteria and a strategy proposal as well, but we were told to forget about it by the secretary general’s office,” a Commission source told the Guardian. “Effectively, the criteria were suppressed. We allowed the biocides and pesticides legislation to roll over.”

Angeliki Lyssimachou, an environmental toxicologist for Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN), said: “If the draft ‘cut-off’ criteria proposed by the commission had been applied correctly, 31 pesticides would have been banned by now, fulfilling the mandate of the pesticide regulation to protect humans and the environment from low-level chronic endocrine disrupting pesticide exposure.”

Both in the EU and the U.S., chemical industry influence on valid public efforts to establish more precautionary and protective standards for hazardous chemicals like EDCs continues to threaten environmental health progress. Join Beyond Pesticides as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to communities and the environment and ways to overcome industry opposition to progress this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Guardian; Pesticide Action Network Europe



Maui Decision Not to Defend GE Moratorium Disappoints Activists

(Beyond Pesticides, February 4, 2015)  In the face of a challenge from the chemical industry, Hawaii’s Maui County will not defend a moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) farming that was passed by county voters last fall. Seeking to have the moratorium thrown out, industry giants Monsanto, Dow-owned Agrigenetics and others sued Maui days after the measure was passed.  It was expected that the county would defend the law in the courts, but to the disappointment of many, attorneys for Maui County filed a single sentence brief with the court, stating that it “is taking no position.”

Maui_Landsat_PhotoIn November 2014, Maui residents passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community. Now residents and local groups supporting the new law are expressing outrage and disappointment over the decision by Maui County to disregard its duty to defend a law passed by its citizens, despite earlier assurances that county will implement the moratorium.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said that the outrage from activists groups is misplaced. In December, the court allowed the local group, SHAKA Movement, to intervene to defend the moratorium. Mr. Antone expressed that SHAKA Movement indicated that they wanted to defend the law, and that allowing the SHAKA Movement to take the lead would save taxpayers money.  Mr. Antone also noted that despite its stance in court, the county is prepared to present a plan to the County Council on how to enforce the bill if the federal court rules that it is legal.

“The people of Maui passed this law through the proper ballot initiative power; the county attorneys, as public servants, have a duty to defend it,” said George Kimbrell, attorney with Center for Food Safety, in a press release. “This is highly unusual and reveals the power the pesticide industry has on the island.”

Industry’s challenge to the law came just nine days after it was passed. Industry groups filed a motion for summary judgment, which argues that the ballot initiative itself was unconstitutional because it preempted state and federal law and violated county and state law. However, several Maui County residents,  along with the SHAKA Movement, filed a preemptive lawsuit against the county, Monsanto and Dow just one day before industry’s suit. That lawsuit sought to assure transparency and influence over the implementation of the initiative, in light of the enormous amount of money that the companies have poured into the county in an attempt to beat the initiative.

Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, BASF Plant Science LP, and Dow AgroSciences also filed a lawsuit against the neighboring county of Kauai to prevent a similar measure, Ordinance 960, from being implemented. While Kauai’s law did not impose a full ban of GE farming, it did require mandatory notification concerning pesticide applications and buffer zones for crops and pesticide spraying in certain areas. Even with these more moderate restrictions, the Kauai law was stuck down by a federal court in August. While attorneys defending the law filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit in September, some Kauai County Councilmen have introduced a bill to repeal the challenged law, which would invalidate the appeal.

The initiative in Maui is part of a growing movement on the Islands that seeks to protect health and the environment while strengthening local food economies and resiliency. Recently, state legislators announced they will soon be introducing a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. Not yet filed or finalized, the proposed bill would create buffer zones around these sensitive areas, prohibiting farmers from using large amounts of pesticides within these specified areas. The proposed bill has garnered wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Kauai Council Member Gary Hooser, coming together during a rally to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections. “It’s not just the environmental fringe, it’s not just the activists, these are regular people on the street who are concerned about this issue and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to act on that,” Mr. Hooser told reporters at the rally.

Residents living on the Hawaiian Islands are subject to a particularly pronounced form of environmental assault, as the state’s premiere growing conditions have made it a prime target for agrichemical companies to test new, experimental forms of GE crops. Data released last year reveals that high levels of restricted use pesticides, in some cases almost double the pounds per acre average of other states, are being used in Kauai County. According to the Center for Food Safety, in 2014 alone there were 1,381 field test sites in Hawaii, compared to only 178 sites in California- a large agricultural state. Most of these crops are engineered to resist herbicides and pesticides. Testing these crops means repeated spraying of dangerous chemicals near neighborhoods, schools, and waterways.  Residents of the Hawaiian Islands that live, work, or go to school near these fields are subject to incessant pesticide spraying, as the climate provides a year-round growing season for GE crops. A May 2014 report found 25 herbicides, 11 insecticides and 6 fungicides in Hawaii’s waterways, underscoring resident concerns for both the land and human health.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Join us as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to farmworkers and farming communities this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat , Center for Food Safety Press Release



Florida Officials, FDA, Consider Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes

(Beyond Pesticides, February 3, 2015) Officials in the Florida Keys are seeking approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release a wave of mosquitoes that have been genetically engineered to produce offspring whose larvae are unable to survive. The plan to introduce these mosquitoes has been met with intense skepticism by local residents. A change.org petition against the release has garnered over 146,000 signatures to date.

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD) officials have been planning the release alongside British biotechnology company Oxitec, which has already conducted similar experiments with the genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. Websites for Oxitec and the FKMCD assert that the GE aedes aegypti mosquitoes will significantly Aedes_aegypti_feedinglower the numbers of the disease spreading insects, and reduce the need to spray insecticides. Opponents counter that the introduction of the modified mosquitoes is unacceptably risky, as there has been little research on possible non-target effects of the novel insect, and current control methods and public education have been successful at controlling exotic diseases. Opportunity for public comment to FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is likely to occur in the near future.

Behind the Technology

Citing internal Oxitec company documents, British-based environmental organization Genewatch has raised alarms over the technology  used to create the GE insects. Experiments with the Oxitec’s GE mosquitoes call for large numbers of modified males to be released in the wild to mate with female mosquitoes and produce offspring that are unable to develop. To create these autocidal male mosquitoes, the company uses the antibiotic tetracycline to act as a chemical switch, allowing the GE larvae to develop and survive in the lab, rather than die immediately as planned in the wild. Larvae are supposed to die in the wild due to an absence of tetracycline.

However, Oxitec’s documents discuss an experiment where 15% of insects in the lab survived because mosquitoes were fed off of chicken-based cat food that contained low levels of tetracycline even after it was heat-treated in attempts to remove traces of the antibiotic. Tetracycline is used in a variety of different settings, from agriculture to the control of human diseases, and ultimately makes its way into the environment. Studies show that most wastewater treatment plants are unable to effectively remove tetracycline antibiotics, and the compound is frequently detected in surface water, ground water, drinking water, wastewater, soils and sediment. Thus low levels of tetracycline in the environment may result in only a temporary reduction in the numbers of disease carrying mosquitoes. And there are further questions regarding the impacts of how tetracycline-exposed survivor GE mosquitoes may impact human health or wildlife.

Helen Wallace, Ph.D., director of Genewatch, notes in an interview with The Financial Times, “Staff would be better employed using the well-established public health approach of removing mosquito breeding sites [water containers] rather than in placing GM mosquito larvae at intervals across a site. Plans to scale up releases of GM mosquitoes in dengue-endemic Brazil should be halted. Authorities in other places where releases are planned, such as Florida and Panama, should also stop and think again.” However, Professor Anthony James from UC Irvine compares the use of GE mosquitoes to the widespread use of pesticides, stating in a 2012 Los Angeles Times article, “Most of the concerns are about some unintended off-target effects [involving species beyond the Aedes], but we know exactly what the off-target effects of insecticide are.” Rather than posit mosquito control as a choice between spraying and genetic modification, localities throughout the country have revealed that proper management can be achieved so that there is rarely, if ever, a need to employ such tools.

Alternatives and Public Education

Control of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be successful when emphasis is placed on public education and preventative strategies. Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Community based programs should encourage residents to employ these effective techniques, focus on eliminating breeding sites on public lands, and promote monitoring and action levels in order to determine what, where, and when control measures might be needed. New Jersey’s Cape May County provides an excellent example of a low-risk alternative to employing insecticides or introducing GE species. Cape May has used mosquitoes’ natural predators, tiny copepods, to eat the larvae of the mosquito. Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of risky technologies such as toxic pesticides and GE mosquitoes can be avoided.

For additional information and resources on least-toxic mosquito control alternatives, see Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page.

Localities in Florida, where the humid, subtropical environment provides year-round breeding conditions for mosquitoes, have a particularly tough time with mosquito control. Beyond Pesticides encourages residents of Florida and states across the country to attend the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, taking place this year in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th, 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor



Commonly Used Pyrethroid Pesticide Increases Risk of ADHD

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2015) A study led by a Rutgers University research team finds that the commonly used pesticide deltamethrin increases the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adding to a mounting body of scientific research linking pesticide exposure to the disorder. Rutgers scientists, along with colleagues from Emory University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University discovered that mice exposed to the pyrethroid insecticide deltamethrin in utero and through lactation exhibit several features of ADHD, including dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits and impulsive-like behavior. The study, Developmental pesticide exposure reproduces features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was published Wednesday in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

ADHD is estimated to affect 8–12% of school-age children worldwide. ADHD is a complex disorder, and though is strong scientific evidence that genetics play a role in susceptibility to the disorder, no specific gene has been found that causes ADHD and scientists believe that environmental factors, such as pesticide exposure, may contribute to the development of the behavioral condition.

“Although we can’t change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides that we should be examining in more detail,” says lead author Jason Richardson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department and Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a member of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI).

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the study analyzed health care questionnaires and urine samples of 2,123 children and adolescents. Researchers asked parents whether a physician had ever diagnosed their child with ADHD and cross-referenced each child’s prescription drug history to determine if any of the most common ADHD medications had been prescribed. Children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Deltamethrin is commonly used in the home, and on vegetable crops, gardens, lawns and golf courses. As part of the chemical class of synthetic pyrethroids, it is often touted as a safer alternative to other pesticides, or deemed “as safe as chrysanthemum flowers” by pest control companies. However, there are many recent studies that show significant concern with this class of chemicals. In addition to this new study, pyrethroids have previously been linked to learning problems, and adverse behavioral and emotional development in children.

The prolific use of these chemicals means that exposure to these chemicals is widespread. Recent research has found that residents of New York City are more highly exposed to organophosphates and pyrethroid pesticides than the average American, and another 2008 survey found pyrethroid contamination in 100 percent of urban streams sampled in California. Despite new data on concerning health affects to children, in 2012 EPA expanded the allowed uses of these pesticides and removed an additional protective safety factor for children.

ADHD most often affects children, with an estimated 11 percent of children between the ages of 4-17 –about 6.4 million, diagnosed as of 2011. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Notably, researchers in this study observed that male mice were affected more than the female mice. The ADHD-like behaviors persisted in the mice through adulthood, even when the pesticide was no longer detected in their system.

Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to pesticide exposure because their bodies do not metabolize the chemicals as quickly. According to Dr. Richardson, this is why human studies need to be conducted to determine how exposure affects the developing fetus and young children.

With the mounting evidence of the impacts of pesticides to human health, the success of management approaches that do not rely on hazardous pesticides, demonstrates that exposure to these pesticides are unnecessary. Beyond Pesticides has many resources, including the ManageSafe database to help avoid and manage unwanted insects without the use of synthetic chemicals. These techniques include exclusion, sanitation and maintenance practices, as well as mechanical and least-toxic controls (which include boric acid and diatomaceous earth).

For more information on the hazards of pesticides and human health, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database, where we track the science on how pesticides are contributing to the rise of learning and developmental disorders in children, and see our factsheet, Children and Pesticides Don’t Mix.

Sources: Science Daily, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.



Persistent Organic Pollutants, Pesticides Linked to Early Menopause

(Beyond Pesticides, January 30, 2015) Extensive exposure to common chemicals may be linked to an earlier start of menopause, according to a new study out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers of the study found that women whose bodies have high levels of these chemicals, including three pesticides, experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of the chemicals. The pesticides found to have a significant correlation with an early start in menopause were p,p’-DDE (a metabolite of DDT), β-hexachlorocyclohexane (a byproduct of the production of lindane), and mirex. All three pesticides are organochlorine insecticides or their breakdown products that have been banned for use in the U.S., but continue to persist in the environment and in the food chain.

WUSTL-sealThe study, Persistent Organic Pollutants and Early Menopause in U.S. Women, published this week in the journal PLoS ONE, investigates the link between levels in blood and urine of 111 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), or chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal activity, and focused on known reproductive toxicants or persistent environmental contaminants. The findings suggest a significant association between 15 chemicals –nine polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, which are industrial products), three pesticides, two forms of phthalates (plastic chemicals), and furan (a toxic byproduct of incineration and certain industrial processes)– and an early start to menopause and potentially harmful effects on ovarian function.

While there have been several studies examining the link between EDCs and menopause, the new research is the first to explore this association on a large scale, using a nationally representative sample of patients across the U.S.

“Earlier menopause can alter the quality of a woman’s life and has profound implications for fertility, health and our society,” senior study author Amber Cooper, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a university news release.

“Understanding how the environment affects health is complex,” she added. “This study doesn’t prove causation, but the associations raise a red flag and support the need for future research.”

Cooper said the study’s findings could have implications for women’s health.

“Chemicals linked to earlier menopause may lead to an early decline in ovarian function, and our results suggest we as a society should be concerned,” she said.

Two other experts say the findings of the new study reinforce what endocrinologists had long suspected. “This important study strengthens the thinking that endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect ovarian function,” said Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“Prior research has shown an association with metabolic defects and this research becomes an issue to discuss with patients requesting fertility treatment,” he said.

Jill Rabin, MD, co-chief of the division of ambulatory care in Women’s Health Programs at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, NY, called the study “important,” because “earlier menopause can impact on a woman’s quality of life (hot flashes, mood and memory changes) and quantity of life (osteoporosis, fractures, heart disease).”

Both experts called for further research to clarify just how and how much exposure to the chemicals listed in the study might impact people’s health.

The new study is just one of many that point to a link between pesticide exposure and health effects in both men and women. Other health effects include a decline in sperm count, increased risk of endometriosis, obesity and diabetes, and more.

While the endocrine-disrupting effects of many pesticides have been documented, U.S. regulators have been extremely slow to move forward with the statutorily-mandated review of pesticides for the previously unevaluated risk of potential endocrine disruption. Yet, findings like the current study and many others highlight the importance of generating strong pesticide regulations that take into consideration endocrine-disrupting effects when evaluating safety standards for worker protection and human health impact.

Beyond Pesticides urges supporting organic agriculture as method of avoiding exposure to these dangerous pesticides.

Source: HealthDay

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides



Hawaiian Legislators Proposing Bill to Establish School and Hospital Buffer Zones

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2015) State legislators in Hawaii will soon be introducing a proposal to establish pesticide-free zones around schools and hospitals throughout the state. Not yet filed or finalized, the proposed bill would prohibit farmers from using large amounts of pesticides within a specified distance of schools and hospitals, known as buffer zones. While the exact distance of the buffer zones in Hawaii are yet be determined and will be open to discussion and input from experts and the public, lawmakers are focusing on a distance of 500 to 1,000 feet.

kauaicornfields“We want to provide meaningful protections that are going to keep pesticides from drifting into our schools and hospitals and affecting our kids,” said State Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the State House environmental protection committee and intended sponsor of the bill. “I think protecting our kids from chemicals is a common sense thing that everybody can get behind.”

Beyond this common sense reason and general concern for the health of children and those already facing compromised health, Hawaiians have also experienced numerous pesticide drift and exposure incidents at schools in the past years. These incidents spurred a similar bill to that proposed by Rep. Lee, which ultimately failed.

The proposed bill has garnered wide support across Hawaii, with many groups and individuals, including Kauai Council Member Gary Hooser, coming together during a rally last week to ask for passage of these much needed pesticide protections. “It’s not just the environmental fringe, it’s not just the activists, these are regular people on the street who are concerned about this issue and it’s the legislature’s responsibility to act on that,” Hooser told reporters at the rally.

Many of the supporters come from localities, such as Kauai and Maui, where local ordinances were passed in an attempt to establish similar pesticide-free buffer zones, as well as genetically-engineered (GE) crop cultivation restrictions. After legal challenges from the likes of Syngenta, BASF, and DuPont, however, many of these local efforts have been invalidated or remain in legal limbo.

Opponents of the measure argue that the proposed bill would harm small farmers and that measures are already in place that protect surrounding areas like schools. But supporters of the bill, including Rep. Lee, strongly disagree on both points.

Additional background on the fight for increased protections on the Hawaiian Islands, including testimony Beyond Pesticides provided in support of Kauai’s Bill 2491, can be found here. For more information on the hazards that continue to be associated with the pesticide drift and the role of organic agriculture as a solution, see Beyond Pesticides Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass and Organic Food webpage.

Join us as we continue the conversation on pesticide impacts to farmworkers and farming communities this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Hawaii News Now



Will Pollinator Declines Increase Global Malnutrition and Disease? Yes, Says New Study

(Beyond Pesticides, January 28, 2015) Global decline of pollinators and pollination services will have a devastating impact on the nutritional health of people in developing countries, especially women and children, if left unabated, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University. This research is the first to examine how pollinators influence nutrient intake and the risk of nutrient deficiency. It also comes at a time when policy makers are slow to find long-term sustainable solutions to reversing pollinator declines, despite mounting scientific evidence urging immediate action.

Bev Veals Kure Beach NC Beeliever Though they spray for mosquitoes bees find a way to visit.Pollination services are valued at over $125 billion globally and pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat. However, pollinators like honey bees, wild bees, butterflies and others are in decline around the globe, with many beekeepers, scientists, and environmental activists singling out pesticides as a major contributing factor. But despite suggestions that pollinators are critical not only for global food supply, but specifically human nutritional health, there has not been any research to support this claim until now. The study, “Do Pollinators Contribute to Nutritional Health,” published in PLoS ONE, combined data on crop pollination requirements, food nutrient densities, and actual human diets to predict the effects of pollinator losses on the risk of nutrient deficiency.

The study focuses its analyses on children and women in developing countries (Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda and Bangladesh), where high rates of malnutrition and limited access to nutrient supplements may make individuals more susceptible to the effects of pollinator declines. Nutritional deficiencies in young children are most important in determining long-term health, cognitive abilities, and survival. The authors analyzed five of the most important nutrients to global nutrition: vitamin A, zinc, iron, folate, and calcium. They found that in some populations, like parts of Mozambique where many children and mothers are barely able to meet their needs for micronutrients, especially vitamin A, the disappearance of pollinators could push as many as 56 percent of people over the edge into malnutrition.

“This is the first study that quantifies the potential human health impacts of animal pollinator declines,” says Samuel Myers, MD, MPH, at the Harvard School of Public Health. Earlier studies have shown links between pollinators and crop yields —and between crop yields and the availability of food and nutrients. “But to evaluate whether pollinator declines will really affect human nutrition, you need to know what people are eating,” Dr. Myers explains.

According to the study, the role of pollinators in determining total nutrient intake varied widely among nutrients and countries. The researchers find that 69 percent or more of the vitamin A in children’s diets came from fruits and vegetables, many of which depend strongly on pollinators. Fruits and vegetables also contributed most of the folate to children’s diets, but these plants depended on pollinators to a much lesser degree. Further, the study estimates the potential effects of pollinator declines on risk of nutrient deficiency in the populations surveyed. It found that if pollinators are removed, 2 to 56%, 0 to 2%, 0 to 23%, 1 to 5%, and 0.1 to 3% of children in the populations surveyed become newly at risk of vitamin A, calcium, folate, iron, and zinc deficiencies, respectively. For vitamin A in Uganda and Mozambique, this increase was substantial (15% and 56%, respectively) and statistically significant. For folate in Mozambique, the change was also substantial (28%) and marginally significant. Folate is a critical nutrient for pre-natal nutrition and is therefore also a concern for pregnant women. However, the authors did not find significant differences in this group. The study finds that overall the risk of vitamin A deficiency is more sensitive to pollinator removal than that of other nutrients, and that over half of the populations in these vulnerable regions would become at risk of nutritional deficiency if pollinators and their services declined.

According to the authors, micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to affect more than 1 in 4 people around the globe. The “hidden hunger” associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies affects individuals of every age and gender and can cause increased risk of maternal mortality, increased incidence of a variety of chronic and infectious diseases, reduced IQ, decreased work productivity, and increases in nutrient-specific diseases like goiter, night-blindness, and iron-deficiency anemia.

Emerging from this research is the importance of pollination services to the availability of vitamin A. The study notes that each year vitamin A deficiency causes an estimated 800,000 deaths in women and children, including 20–24% of child mortality from measles, diarrhea and malaria and 20% of all-cause maternal mortality. It is estimated to roughly double the risk of mortality from common conditions like measles, diarrhea, and malaria while increasing the risk of maternal mortality 4.5 times.

While there are several limitations and uncertainties to this study, the authors believe that it provides an important first step in understanding the importance of pollinators for nutritional health. “The take-home is: pollinator declines can really matter to human health, with quite scary numbers for vitamin A deficiencies, for example,” says  Taylor Ricketts, PhD, at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics who co-led the study, “which can lead to blindness and increase death rates for some diseases, including malaria.” Further, “[E]cosystem damage can damage human health, so conservation can be thought of as an investment in public health.”

Pollinators continue to face dire threats to their survival. Bees, butterflies, and others have seen drastic population declines over the last several years due to habitat loss and widespread pesticide use. Pesticides also pose a greater threat to ecosystems and biodiversity, according to a meta-analysis by a group of global, independent scientists. One class of pesticides in particular, the neonicotinoids, has been identified as a major factor in bee losses across the U.S. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and have been shown to, even at low levels, impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Read: No Longer a Big Mystery. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tasked with regulating pesticides and protecting the environment from harm, has thus far failed to sufficiently act to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. In fact, just last week EPA approved yet another bee-toxic pesticide, flupyradifurone, following other recent and questionable bee-toxic pesticide approvals like sulfoxaflor, which was approved for registration despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers.

It is time to do our part to reverse pollinator decline and support policies and initiates that support sustainable methods of growing food and controlling pests. For more information on what you can do, visit our Bee Protective page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: University of Vermont, PLoS One 

Photo Source: Bev V, North Carolina




CDC Reports Deficiencies in Farmworker Protection from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2015) In evaluating a farmworker poisoning incident in Washington State last year, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report identifies “at least three potential occupational hazards in agriculture: off-target pesticide drift, toxicity of some recently marketed pesticides, and a gap in worker notification requirements.” The report recounts the poisoning in April 2014 of 20 farmworkers at a Washington State cherry farm who were trellising cherry tree branches when a new pesticide mixture being applied to a neighboring pear orchard drifted on to their work site, causing acute illness within minutes. Sixteen farmworkers sought medical treatment for symptoms ranging from headache and eye irritation to gastrointestinal disorders and respiratory problems. Half of the affected workers had symptoms which persisted over two weeks. The workers were not notified of the planned pesticide application at the neighboring orchard.

cherryThe CDC report on the incident, authored by Geoffrey M. Calvert, MD (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), Luis Rodriguez, and Joanne Bonnar Prado, MPH (Washington State Department of Health), cites 31% of acute pesticide related illnesses for farmworkers between 2005 and 2012 occurring as a result of off-target drift from a neighboring farm. In the April incident, farmworkers were anywhere between 30 and over 350 feet away from the site of the pear orchard’s pesticide application. Wind speed, measured hours before the incident when the application first began at 7AM, was recorded as low at 0-4 mph. The incident occurred at 1:30 p.m., at which time the winds were blowing up to 18mph.

As the CDC report notes, although regulations prohibit applying pesticides in a manner that results in contact with workers or other persons, these regulations do not explicitly indicate that applications must stop when an applicator observes workers or bystanders in neighboring, non-target areas. Federal response to the problems associated with pesticide drift has been minimal, with a focus on voluntary programs. Beyond Pesticides provided comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year regarding draft guidance to better address pesticide drift in the risk assessment for pesticides. To properly assess harm from drift, peer-reviewed and scientifically sound human health and ecological toxicity data must be available and fully evaluated, including low-dose and sublethal toxicity. However, data gaps continue to plague the agency’s review process, resulting in underestimated risks and subsequent harms, as demonstrated by this incident. EPA must realize that these flaws in its risk assessment process habitually continue to allow products that pose unreasonable adverse effects on workers and the environment. (For additional information on pesticide drift see Beyond Pesticides article Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass).

The pesticide mixture applied in the April incident, which included the chemicals pyridaben, novaluron, and triflumizole, had no previous reports of human illness associated with its application according to CDC. Pyridaben is an insecticide which has product warning labels that indicate it is fatal if inhaled, and also requires extensive personal protective equipment, which the applicators were wearing but affected farmworkers were not (the applicators did not suffer any noticeable ill effects from the spray). Novaluron is an insect growth regulator which the CDC report indicates can cause substantial but temporary eye injury. However, EPA’s fact sheet on the chemical claims it is not an eye or dermal irritant. In the case of triflumizole, an imidazole fungicide first registered in 2007, no peer-reviewed in-vivo studies on biological organisms are available.

The pesticide mixture that caused illness in Washington state farmworkers was not tested for its cumulative effect on human health or the environment, and EPA has no current plans to address this issue. Despite scientific evidence showing that pesticide mixtures may amplify or decrease the toxic effect of individual active ingredients when combined, only a very limited number of possible interactions are tested. As Beyond Pesticides wrote over 10 years ago in the article Synergy: The Big Unknowns of Pesticide Exposure, while testing all possible combinations of registered pesticides is unlikely, the agency should prioritize common chemical mixtures as well as those that are prone to off-site drift.

In addition to the problems concerning drift and pesticide mixtures in the CDC report, workers did not receive prior notification of a pesticide application at the neighboring pear orchard. Although there was evidence that managers at both farms had previously given each other notice when a spray event was planned, recent staff turnover apparently caused a breakdown in this communication. CDC references a previous report it produced in California, which found a number of acute farmworker illnesses related to a simple lack of prior notification of a pesticide application.

EPA proposed updated Farmworker Protection Standards (WPS) early last year after over two decades of delay. While EPA’s guidance adds a new provision stating that an applicator must “immediately cease or suspend application if any worker or other person, other than an appropriately trained and equipped handler, is in the treated or entry restricted area,” as the CDC report notes, this requirement would only apply to the “treated” or “entry restricted area,” not to off-site areas where bystanders or workers on other farms may be. No provisions in the agency’s new WPS guidelines would require prior notification between farms that could prevent this incident from occurring again (Read Beyond Pesticides’ full comments on Worker Protection Standards, and see Farmworker Justice’s report Exposed and Ignored for more information about how pesticide endanger the nation’s farmworkers).

The conventional approach to pest management makes pesticide drift an inherent risk to farmworkers and the wider environment. Supporting organic agriculture is one of the best ways you can eliminate hazardous pesticide drift and support the health of the workers that grow our food. Vote with your wallet, remembering that food buying decisions support or reject hazardous agricultural practices, protection of farmworkers and farm families. For more information on farmworker hazards associated with pesticides used in chemical-intensive, conventional agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Join us as we continue the conversation on farmworker protection this spring at Beyond Pesticides’ 33rd National Pesticide Forum in Orlando, FL, April 17-18th 2015. “Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators” will focus on agricultural justice, including the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment, particularly as it relates to farmworker protections and organic agriculture. Early bird registration is in effect until March 15, so make your plans to register today!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Centers for Disease Control, Oregonlive
Photo Source: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle



New Pesticide To Be Marketed Amid Misleading Claims That It Is ‘Safer for Bees’

(Beyond Pesticides, January 26, 2015) Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it completed the registration of a new pesticide, flupyradifurone, that would be marketed as an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides, and “safer for bees.” A closer look at this chemical reveals that the agency is grossly misleading the public on the ecological safety of flupyradifurone since the chemical is systemic, persistent, and highly acutely toxic to adult honey bees. At a time when bees are declining, advocates say it is inappropriate for EPA to introduce yet another bee toxic chemical to the market.

Douglas Kirk1Flupyradifurone (“Sivanto”) is a new systemic, butenolide insecticide from Bayer CropScience that is to be used on crops such as citrus, cotton, potatoes and many others, and also as seed treatment. Note: EPA is still considering soybean seed treatment. The chemical is a neurotoxic insecticide that can inhibit nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) in the nervous system. Neonicotinoids, widely linked to devastating health impacts on bees, affect the nervous system in the same way. However, EPA states that flupyradifurone differs from neonicotinoids because of the way it binds to the receptors and is metabolized. However, most troubling is that, based on EPA’s registration documents, the chemical is highly toxic to adult bees for short-term oral exposures.

According to EPA, flupyradifurone went through a rigorous assessment review, given the elevated concerns surrounding bee decline and its link to pesticides. However, EPA’s review raises more questions than answers on why this latest chemical with potential risks to bees is being registered. EPA’s registration document states, “While the acute oral toxicity study indicates that flupyradifurone is highly toxic to individual adult honey bees, longer-term laboratory-based studies of both larval and adult bees show no adverse effects up to the highest dietary concentration tested.” For bees that come into surface contact with the chemical, EPA states in one document that the chemical is “practically nontoxic to adult bees on an acute contact exposure basis.” But in another document it reports, “In the acute contact toxicity test, some bees showed movement coordination problems or lethargy at the two highest concentrations…” after a few hours of exposure. Despite this, EPA concludes that its review of submitted field studies “did not result in any adverse effect on overall colony performance or overwintering capacity..” EPA documents can be found here.

As a systemic pesticide, it is expected that flupyradifurone will be taken up by the plant and persist in all plant tissues, including pollen and nectar. EPA finds that while residues in pollen were higher than those in nectar, “residues declined in pollen and nectar within a two-week window following treatment.” This means that bees can expect to endure at least two weeks of exposure to high levels of flupyradifurone residues on pollen and nectar. For adult bees that forage on this pollen and nectar, death is imminent as the agency has already found that flupyradifurone is highly acutely toxic from ingestion (oral exposures). To further compound this, EPA notes that the field studies reveal high mortality in adult bees within 24 hours of treatment. Note: It is also important to point out that EPA seemingly believes that it will be acceptable for bees to touch or tread on flupyradifurone residues, as long as they do not ingest it from pollen. This is certainly counterintuitive to natural bee behavior and anyone observing bees.

So why is EPA maintaining that this product is safer for bees?
EPA believes flupyradifurone is less toxic than current insecticides on the market, including neonicotinoids. In fact, comparing toxicity values of flupyradifurone and imidacloprid, flupyradifurone is less toxic by the oral route (LD50 3.4ug/bee) than imidacloprid (LD50 0.004ug/bee). While flupyradifurone is less toxic than imidacloprid and some other neonicotinoids, bees are still at risk from flupyradifurone. EPA believes that in spite of the acute oral toxicity, flupyradifurone has no measurable impact on bee colonies and that there is “compelling evidence that the compound is not having a pronounced effect on bees…” EPA states that in making its decision it considered 38 studies, all of which are most likely industry studies, to reach its conclusion. The agency also finds in its registration document that flupyradifurone is “less toxic” to mammals, birds and aquatic organisms (even though it is very toxic to freshwater invertebrates and crustaceans), compared with pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos and others. Flupyradifurone is very persistent with half-lives in soil ranging from 38-400 days.

Of concern is the agency’s failure to take into account the cumulative impact of flupyradifurone and neonicotinoids like imidacloprid and clothianidin on bees and other non-target insects in the environment. Neonicotinoids, as well as a host of other insecticides are currently used as seed treatment and in other areas of agriculture and home and garden sites. Adding flupyradifurone to the chemical mix found in the environment will mean that bees and other non-target organisms will be exposed to mixtures of chemicals that have yet to be evaluated for their combined or synergistic effects, and possibly compounding the already dire plight of pollinators.

It was less than one year ago that EPA introduced to the market sulfoxaflor, another bee-toxic insecticide registered by EPA despite warnings from concerned groups and beekeepers. Beekeepers have since sued EPA over the registration of sulfoxaflor. Given the global phenomenon of bee decline and the precautions taken in the European Union regarding bee health with its two-year suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides, advocates are calling it irresponsible for EPA to allow into the environment yet another chemical with a high hazard potential for bee health. To many, EPA’s decision appears counter to current agency and interagency work to protect pollinators.

A recent government sponsored national survey indicates that U.S. beekeepers experienced a 45.2% annual mortality rate with their hives between April 2012 and March 2013. During the winter of 2013/14, two-thirds of beekeepers experienced loss rates greater than the established acceptable winter mortality rate. EPA, which is part of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, tasked with stemming the tide on bee declines, has a responsibility to bees, the environment and beekeepers in protecting bees and other pollinators from dangerous pesticides.

Source: EPA News Release




California Plan Violates Protections from Pesticide Spraying, According to Lawsuit

(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2015) Pesticide-centered Program Approved Despite 30,000 Opposition Letters. Eleven groups, including Beyond Pesticides and the City of Berkeley, sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture yesterday over the agency’s approval of a statewide “pest management” plan that allows pesticide spraying on schools, organic farms and residential yards, including aerial spraying over homes in rural areas. California regulators approved the program despite tens of thousands of public comment letters calling for a less toxic approach that would cdfaprotect the vitality and resilience of the state’s food system and the economic interests of organic farmers.

“Environmental review laws are there to prevent abuses,” says Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, “Agencies cannot make unilateral decisions to ignore mandatory health and environmental safety standards.”

“The state offers no evidence to support its conclusion that this pesticide-centered program will have no effect on our health,” said Debbie Friedman, cofounder of MOMS Advocating Sustainability. “As a parent, I am particularly disturbed that health risks of pesticide residues for children aged two and under are dismissed based on the absurd reasoning that infants spend most of their time indoors.”

The approved program allows the state to use, without any additional environmental review, 79 pesticides that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm and are also highly toxic to bees, butterflies, fish and birds. Pesticides used in the program include chlorpyrifos, which is banned in Europe and a recent U.S. EPA study found poses hazards to workers and drinking water; the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, which is highly toxic to bees; the deadly, ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide, which is being phased out because of an international treaty; and chloropicrin, which causes genetic damage. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation last week announced strict new standards for chloropicrin because of the threat is poses to public health.

“This program puts people and some of California’s most imperiled species, like salmon and tiger salamanders, directly in harm’s way from dangerous pesticides,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s frightening that the state would spray these toxic chemicals throughout California without fully analyzing their effects or telling the public of the consequences.”

The plan, approved Dec. 24 as part of the Statewide Plant Pest Prevention and Management Environmental Impact Report, allows these dangerous chemicals to be used anywhere in the state, any time into the indefinite future, without an option for affected communities to stop the spray. The state can also approve new pesticide treatments and treatment sites behind closed doors without public scrutiny or notice.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda Superior Court, outlines numerous ways the spray plan violates state environmental laws, including failure to notify the public of future pesticide spraying and failure to analyze the impacts of the pesticides on human and environmental health, including harm to infants and contamination of drinking water.

“What will it take to make the state accountable to the tens of thousands of individuals who wrote comment letters asking the state to adopt a modern, sustainable pest management approach that would ensure that food and nursery plants are not contaminated by pesticides?” said Nan Wishner, board member of the California Environmental Health Initiative.

“Municipal drinking water sources that are already contaminated with pesticides would be further degraded by this pesticide program. How can the department realistically claim that pesticides sprayed under this program will never reach any of those bodies of water?” said attorney Jason Flanders of ATA Law Group.

The suit was brought by Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group, California Environmental Health Initiative, MOMS Advocating Sustainability, Center for Food Safety, City of Berkeley, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, Beyond Pesticides, Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment. The plaintiffs are represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter, and Hampton, along with ATA Law Group.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Press Release




Iowa Farmers Group Asks for Improved Pesticide Drift Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, January 22, 2015) The Iowa Farmers Union filed a petition yesterday with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) for rulemaking to improve pesticide drift incident responses, penalties, and support to farmers harmed by pesticide drift.

“Pesticidedrift drift from nearby fields is a very real problem for farmers in Iowa,” says Jordan Scheibel, a diversified vegetable farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. “Not only can pesticide drift delay or cause a farm to lose its organic certification, it results in products that farmers – certified organic or not – may not be able to sell legally, safely, or in good conscience, and it exposes the farmers and their workers to potentially harmful pesticides.”

Pesticide drift is an inevitable problem in chemical-intensive pest management strategies that rely on spray and dust pesticide formulations.There are essentially two types of drift: particle drift (off-target movement during application) and vapor drift (off-target movement when a pesticide evaporates from a sprayed surface), also known as volatilization. Both forms of drift present serious problems to unaware farmers and surrounding communities.

IDAL, which oversees pesticide application in the state, collects information about the location of farmers with sensitive crops, such as grapes, certain vegetables, organic crops, and beekeepers, in an effort to prevent pesticide drift. According to a recent report from the Practical Farmers of Iowa, however, agency responses to pesticide drift violations resulted in fines in less than 20 percent of the cases. And federal standards and responses offer little more—even with recent actions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement new drift technology rating standards,

To remedy these problems and prevent future damage to crops and people, the IFU petition requests several specific actions be taken, including:

  • IDALS provide information in writing and via the IDALS website to farmers and others who have come into contact with or suffered losses from pesticide drift regarding the details of the agency process, as well as their rights and available remedies under the law;
  • IDALS provide information on the potential financial impacts of pesticide drift as part of the certification and continuing education process for commercial pesticide applicators;
  • IDALS maintain a public database of the evidence of financial responsibility required to be filed with the agency by certified commercial pesticide applicators; that commercial pesticide applicators be required to provide IDALS with monthly reports of pesticide applications, and that spray drift incident reports involving contact with a human, sensitive crop, or bee apiary be made available in a public database;
  • Commercial pesticide applicators be required to provide notice to individuals who are on the sensitive crop or bee registries and who are within a 5-mile radius of the application site at least 48 hours prior to spraying; and
  • The rules be updated to provide for increased fines for serious or habitual violations of the rules governing pesticide application.

“Current administrative rules designed to prevent pesticide drift and assist farmers who experience losses from drift are inadequate.” Jana Linderman, President of the Iowa Farmers Union, states. “We have proposed several rule changes to IDALS through a recently filed petition for rule making. We are attempting to improve the relationship between IDALS and impacted farmers when it comes to dealing with damages caused by pesticide drift.”

The filing was announced yesterday at a joint press conference led by Iowa Farmers Union, in association with the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) and the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI).

For more information on pesticide drift, read Beyond Pesticides’ report Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout communities.

Supporting organic agriculture is one of the best ways you can reduce the risks of pesticide drift, as organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that does not rely on or permit toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. For more information about the pesticides registered for use on foods we eat every day, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience guide, and the Organic Food program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Pesticide Action Network; The Des Moines Register



North Hempstead Sued by Utilities over Pole Warning Signs

(Beyond Pesticides, January 21, 2015) Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated (PSEG) Long Island and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) filed suit against the Town of North Hempstead, New York on Thursday, seeking to impede a 2014 ordinance requiring utility companies to post warning signs on utility poles treated with the hazardous chemical pentachlorophenol (PCP). The chemical has been listed as a possible carcinogen, is typically contaminated with various forms of dioxins and furans –known carcinogens that persist in the environment.

imageThe ordinance, passed in fall 2014, requires warning labels on utility poles that are treated with the hazardous wood preservative PCP. The warning states: “This pole contains a hazardous chemical. Avoid prolonged direct contact with this pole. Wash hands or other exposed areas thoroughly if contact is made.” PCP is highly toxic and has been listed as a possible carcinogen by national and international agencies. Concerns  have been raised throughout the years over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) continued registration of PCP in the U.S. despite having been banned in all European Union member states, China, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Russia.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Central Islip, asserts that the law violates the utility companies’ right to free-speech by forcing them to post warning signs containing “disputed phrases and accompanying text urging the public to take action.” Additionally, the suit describes the placement of signs on the poles as “unworkable,” partly because the utilities would have to coordinate with Verizon, which owns many of the poles. It also states that the possible adoption of similar laws by other municipalities puts utilities in the “untenable position” of having to create differently worded signs depending on the location of the poles.

Astoundingly, LIPA, which filed suit under its corporate name, the Long Island Lighting Co., and PSEG charge they are “irreparably harmed both by being forced to carry the town’s message against their will and by being prevented from carrying messages of their own choosing.”

North Hempstead town attorney Elizabeth Botwin responded, “We are confident that it is legal to require PSEG to warn town residents about the hazards of touching penta-treated poles when they put the exact same warning on their website.”

The suit also takes issue with the mandated use of the term “hazardous chemical,” calling it “vague and provocative,” and that there is a “complete lack of any evidence in the legislative record of any risk of actual harm from minimal contact” with poles.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says short-term ingestion and inhalation of PCP is “extremely toxic to humans.” Inhaling the chemical for even for short periods has resulted in neurological, blood, and liver effects, according to EPA. Additionally, chronic, long-term inhalation can affect the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, and skin. EPA also notes a link between exposure to PCP and cancer –the agency has classified the chemical as a Group B2, probable carcinogen.

Residents of East Hampton, some of whom have filed suit to have the poles removed, also have objected to the use of PCP on poles, although the town doesn’t require warning signs. North Hempstead and East Hampton have called on PSEG to take down the poles and bury the lines. The utility has said it would do so if communities paid the costs, which could amount to tens of millions of dollars.

Since the mid-1980s, Beyond Pesticides has done extensive work to address the risks of exposure to penta and the other two heavy-duty wood preservatives, inorganic arsenicals (such as chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) and creosote. In addition to Pole Pollution, Beyond Pesticides also published Poison Poles, which examines the toxic trail left by the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of the heavy-duty wood preservatives from cradle to grave. On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit led by Beyond Pesticides was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles, and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives.

For more extensive information about pesticide-treated wood, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page.

Source: Newsday

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides




Save the Date, April 17-18: Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators: Protecting health, biodiversity, and ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, January 20, 2015) The 33rd National Pesticide Forum, Agricultural Justice, Age of Organics, and Alligators: Protecting health, biodiversity, and ecosystems, will be held April 17-18, 2015 (Friday afternoon and all day Saturday) at the Florida A&M University College of Law (FAMU) in Orlando, FL. The 2015 conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Farmworker Association of Florida, and FAMU. Co-sponsors include Agricultural Justice Project, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Florida A&M University Small Farms Program, Florida Organic Growers, Food and Water Watch Florida, Just Harvest USA, Orange Audubon Society, Youth & Young Adult Network (YAYA) of the National Farmworker Ministry. If your group is interested in joining as a co-sponsor, please feel free to email us.

This year’s conference will focus on agricultural justice, including the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment, particularly as it relates to farmworker protections and organic agriculture. Biodiversity, pollinator protection, and other relevant issues for central Florida, including West Nile virus, pesticides in schools and hospitals, and genetic engineering will also be covered.

The 33rd National Forum provides an opportunity to share the current science and policy information and discuss local, state, and national issues. The conference, including a tour in the Apopka area, runs from the afternoon of April 17 through the evening of April 18, and brings together scientists, policy makers, and public health and environmental advocates to interact and strategize on solutions that are protective of health and the environment.

Register Today!


Louis Guillette, PhD, Director of the Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Sciences Center and a Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). He is also Professor of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the SmartState Endowed Chair in Marine Genomics, at the SC Center of Economic Excellence. LouisGuilletteFlyer3

Tirso Moreno, co-founder and general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF).TirsoFlyer1

Other Featured Speakers:

Chensheng “Alex” Lu, PhD, MS is an Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). His research focuses on understanding how pesticides affect ecological and human health, and has recently extended his work to saving pollinators, specifically honeybees, from the hazards of a group of insecticides, neonicotinoids. As of December 2014, Dr. Lu has published 64 peer-review articles including the study, Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder, which replicates a previous study and demonstrates again that neonicotinoids are “highly likely to triggering be responsible for triggering CCD in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival to winter.”

Sonia Faruqi, An unconventional author with an original approach, Sonia Faruqi stands primed to become one of the most important voices in food today. Her first book, Project Animal Farm, promises to entertain and enlighten readers, and to improve the lives of people and animals around the world. Her work focuses on improving farm animal lives, helping consumers live more conscientiously, helping farmers farm better, and making land more sustainable. Her goal is to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants.

Marty Mesh, is an expert in sustainable agriculture. He has dedicated more than 40 years to a more environmentally responsible and socially just form of agriculture. Marty helped form Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), a nonprofit organization in 1987 with the goal of educating farmers and the public about organic production through their programs and initiatives. He has served as FOG’s executive director since 1995. In addition, he has been listed by Natural Food Merchandiser as one of the Top 25 People Who Have Most Influenced the Organic Industry and was the recipient of the Organic Trade Association’s Growing the Organic Industry award. Mesh was also featured in and co-produced the film What’s Organic About Organic?

Hari Pulapaka, PhD, CEC, was one of 15 chefs from around the nation for the James Beard Foundation’s first official Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change in 2013, and joined more than 700 chefs last December to urge Congress to support legislation mandating GMO labeling. Hari was born and raised in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai (formerly, Bombay). He came to the United States in 1987 to pursue graduate studies in Mathematics. Today, Hari is a classically trained James Beard nominated Chef as well as an active tenured Associate Professor of Mathematics at Stetson University. Hari teaches full-time at Stetson University during the day and returns to the kitchen at Cress at night.

Click here to see our preliminary list of speakers, and check back often as we add more!

Registration Information

Register online here! General admission is $40 for members and grassroots activists, $20 for students with current ID, and $75 for non-members (includes 1-year membership and totebag). Avoid the $5 late fee by registering before March 15th! In addition to access to all plenary sessions, discussions-based workshops, tour (by RSVP), and printed materials, registration also includes organic food and drink (breakfast, lunch, dinner and two receptions with hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine).

For more information on the program, including a full list of speakers and registration information, please see www.beyondpesticides.org/forum.

We would like to thank everyone who was able to be a part of Advancing Sustainable Communities: People, pollinators and practices, the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, at Portland State University, in Portland, OR. Videos from the 32nd National Pesticide Forum last year in Portland, OR are available to watch on our YouTube Channel.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides




California Tightens Pesticide Limits on Strawberries and Other Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, January 16, 2015) The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) announced Wednesday that it is implementing the country’s strictest limits on chloropicrin, a chemical injected into the soil where strawberries, raspberries, almonds, and other crops are grown. The soil fumigant has been linked to a litany of health effects, such as respiratory ailments, skin irritation, and headaches, due to exposure to drift in surrounding areas over recent years.

strawberries-254336_640The new rules set up wider buffer zones of up to 100 feet around fields where the pesticide is applied. Growers will be restricted to fumigating 40 acres a day unless they use stronger tarps to prevent pesticide drift. Growers are also required to give the state 48 hours notice before fumigating and notify surrounding homes and businesses in Spanish and English.

Chloropicrin is used to control soil pathogens, nematodes, and certain weeds, and can be used alone or in combination with another fumigant, either 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D) or methyl bromide, both of which have also been shown to be toxic to human health and potent environmental contaminants. The new chloropicrin restrictions are timely; a 2011 report found that pesticide use rose in 2010 after a four-year decline. The pesticides with the greatest increases include 1,3-D, as well as chloropicrin. The report also found 1,015 cases of illness between 1992 and 2007 resulting from chloropicrin exposure alone. In total, more than 173 million pounds of pesticides were reported applied statewide, an increase of nearly 15 million pounds –or 9.5 percent– from 2009.

California produces about 88 percent of the nation’s strawberries, which account for 70 percent of all chloropicrin use. The pesticide is also used to protect raspberries, almonds, peppers, tomatoes and melons against a variety of pests and diseases.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a risk assessment of the chemical, which resulted in health-protective labels outlined on the labels, CDPR found that further controls are still needed in California. CDPR proposed the restrictions back in early 2013 after the completion of a 2010 health review that recommended reducing the risk of human exposure to the pesticide by limiting its airborne concentration.

“The right to farm does not include the right to harm,” said Brian Leahy, director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “Part of the cost of doing business is putting protective measures in place that ensure that no one is getting hurt.”

A report last year by the California Department of Public Health found that chloropicrin is the agricultural pesticide of health concern that is applied most heavily within one-quarter of a mile of public schools. California schools recently began implementing new pesticide reporting and use requirements with the start of 2015. All schools and child day care centers statewide are now required to report their annual use of pesticides to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).

While the new limits and restrictions on chloropicrin are a step in the right direction, farmworker and advocacy groups said more still needs to be done, as they fall short of scientists’ recommendations.

“The buffers are not large enough to protect residents, workers and schoolchildren,” said Anne Katten, who monitors pesticide and worker safety for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. “The long-term solution is to phase out the use of chloropicrin and other high-toxicity soil fumigants and move to alternative measures to control soil pests that are safer and more sustainable.”

This is a position strongly supported by Beyond Pesticides. Though this new rule is a move away from the use of toxic fumigants, it does not fully acknowledge the alternatives that already exist in organic production. The only way for consumers to prevent use of hazardous soil fumigants is to buy organically produced food. Beyond Pesticides advocates for the national conversion to organic systems planning, which moves chemicals off the market quickly and replaces them with green management practices. To learn more about organic agriculture please visit Beyond Pesticides organic agriculture page.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.